Coach Geoff Colligan returned after a three week absence and North Down started well keeping possession and showing composure on the ball. However they were dealt a blow in the seventh minute when centre midfielder Rachel Russell jabbed the ball away from her opposite number however she continued her follow through trapping Rachel’s hand between the two sticks. Five stitches and a broken finger in two places was the damage and she is now added to North Down’s ever increasing injury list.
North Down’s early pressure paid off when they were awarded two early short corners but the mechanics were not perfect and the chances went to waste. However two more short corners followed shortly after with Katharine Hill slamming the ball into the right hand corner from the first then when the injection wasn’t quite right for the second Laura Clarke was able to square the ball back to Hill who again dispatched the ball into the right hand corner. North Down were cruising now and Natalie Wallace, home for the weekend from University, led the line well at centre forward as Hill had dropped back into central midfield for Russell. With the back four looking solid and Lauren Brown and Selina Lewis stamping their authority in midfield North Down looked like a different side to the one that had slumped to defeat the week before. They soon stretched their lead when Laura McCaw, in only her second senior appearance, used a nice combination of speed and skill to make her way along the right flank before cutting into the circle and putting the ball past the advancing keeper to make it 3-0 at half time.
Into the second period North Down did not rest on their laurels as they pushed for more goals. Again McCaw made good progress up the right flank before finding Olivia Brown, who had put in a great shift in the first half, and she made no mistake slipping the ball under the keeper and stretching the lead to 4-0. Lauren Brown was to the fore driving through the heart of the Garvey midfield and the rest of the half was comfortable for the visitors until the last 10 minutes. Lisnagarvey progressed up the pitch and when Trish Neill was unsighted by her own defence her pleas for movement went unanswered and Rachelle Adams could only deflect the ball past Neill as she tried her best to close down a shot from close range. At 1-4 with 10 minutes to go things should still have been comfortable however North Down reached for the self-destruct button and became unnecessarily edgy and panicked. Lisnagarvey won a short corner and Rachel Mornin was unlucky at first runner as she deflected the ball past Neill who was going the other way.
Garvey now pushed hard as the visitors’ unnecessary panic was obvious. Garvey won another short corner and when the ball struck Clarke on the knee at the left post a penalty stroke was awarded. Neill came to North Down’s rescue as she dived to her right and swatted the ball away. However the game was far from finished as the home side won another short corner and this time the ball was slammed into the left hand corner to make the score 3-4 with 2 minutes remaining. North Down tried to get the ball up the pitch out of danger as Katharine Hill and Selina Lewis both took the ball into the corners to run the clock down and help North Down hang on for the win. Lessons will need to be learned from the last 10 minutes of this game in terms of game management. Only for their substantial lead North Down on another day could have easily thrown away three points and undone their great opening 60 minutes.
The girls welcome Ballymoney to Comber this Saturday hoping to get points and cement their place in the middle of the Premier League table.
Report by Laura Clarke